Derek Luke is no household name, but perhaps you've seen his baby face from the movie posters for Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher. The newcomer recalls getting the surprise of his life when Washington personally popped into the Sony gift shop where Luke worked to say he'd won the title role!
"I saw Denzel and he called me 'Antwone,' and I tried to play it off," Luke admits. "But I just busted out crying because I felt like this Jersey boy with a dream that was finally coming true. I just broke down and fell on my knees crying, hugging him and just expressing all kinds of joy."
The role carried a lot of emotional weight for the 28-year-old actor, especially since he'd become friends with the real Antwone Fisher while they both were Sony employees. Fisher, an ex-security guard, just happened to be on hand for Washington's announcement.
"Antwone mysteriously came in [the shop] that day," says Luke. "I think Denzel was stunned for like a second, like, 'This can't be.' I heard him say I didn't mention that I knew Antwone on the audition. It wasn't like I was trying not to tell him, I just instinctively didn't mention Antwone."
Fortunately, Luke's real-life bond with Fisher didn't deter Washington from casting him. In fact, it may have enhanced his performance, which has brought him rave reviews, as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best male lead. That prestigious nod showed this onetime struggling actor that he'd truly come full circle. "I used to work [at awards shows]," he marvels. "I used to dress the tables for the actors."